Tag Archive | culture

Cultural Buffets: I’ll Debate You, Michael W. Miller

I’ll spare you all the details and give a brief summary. Arvin Vohra criticized Liberty Hangouts publicly, and members of Liberty Hangouts defended themselves. This led Arvin to apologize and correct himself, and on this thread of comments there appeared a discussion between Jason Weinman (with whom I’ve had disagreements with the past because, if I recall correctly, he went hard for Gary Johnson) and Michael William Miller of Liberty Hangouts about various things I don’t really care about. During the name-calling and pedantry, Michael said:

If you mean we support traditional values, yes, but we have never called once for legislation forcing anyone to do anything.

And, moments later:

[D]o you want to debate this on a livestream? [W]e’d be more than happy to host it on Liberty Hangout. 🙂

While, from what I can gather, the debate invitation was to discuss whether or not Liberty Hangout had called for legislation of traditional values, Jason Weinman declined the invitation. However, I would gladly debate anyone at Liberty Hangout on “traditional” values, and whether it’s a concern that they’re being eroded.

My Values Are My Values, and Therefore Correct

Everyone believes this to be true. It’s an application of the Dunning-Kruger Effect, in fact. Just as we use our ability to play the guitar to understand how skilled another guitar player is, so do we use our own values to judge the values of other people. When we look at uncontacted tribes that segregate girls from their tribe when they hit puberty, we reject the idea as backward and immoral, because our values tell us that it’s wrong to treat people that way, it will have severe permanent damage on the girl’s self-esteem, and there’s nothing magical or mystical about periods. Yet this assessment itself is built on our values that it’s bad to cause severe permanent damage to people’s self-esteem, and our values that positive self-esteem is a good thing. I’ve discussed this countless times before and won’t go into it in full detail. Instead, just check out this article on the subject. Or check out this one.

Cultural Competition

More importantly, the reality of the situation isn’t just that “traditional values” are being eroded from within, although many right-wing figures would deny this and focus their efforts on controlling immigration, in full disregard of the fact that America influences the rest of the world, not the other way around, but also that we are seeing cultural competition, and it functions exactly the same way as economic competition. Worldviews compete in the market in exactly the same way that businesses do, and the one that proves to be most efficient wins out in the long-run. In terms of culture, efficiency appears to be measured primarily in inclusiveness. This also makes sense in economic terms, as exclusiveness reduces a business’s customer base.

For example, acceptance of black people as equals won out the culture war when the two sides pitted against one another: one side advocated continued open racism and segregation, and the other side advocated an end to these things. Motivated by self-interest, the majority of people would have put their personal feelings aside, in the event that they were racist, to advocate for equality, because this, in Mississippi for example, increased their customer reach by 37%. An openly racist business in Mississippi immediately loses 37% of all customers, and more, when it’s considered that many people who aren’t black would refuse to do business with such a company. Many others are motivated simply by empathy, which is also self-interest, since no one wants to be filled with negative emotions like guilt and sorrow.

I have no desire to argue whether one side is right or wrong, even when it comes to “traditional values” (one assumes this to mean heterosexuality, anti-transgenderism, etc.) versus contemporary values, because both sides are subjective. Each can be demonstrated as desirable by its own parameters, and each can demonstrate the other as undesirable by those same parameters. Someone who thinks that transsexualism is a mental illness will obviously think that the normalization of transsexualism is a bad idea, because it openly accepts what they consider to be a mental illness, and they find treating mental illnesses as normal to be a bad idea.

Cultural values change over time, and they clearly move in some direction that I won’t try to name. The arc of human history is pretty evident, though, in that we’ve moved toward secularization and acceptance, rather than toward heightened religiosity and bigotry. We’ve also moved from despotism toward liberty and individualism, at least until the rise of fascism in the 20th century that has set us back so drastically. I’d hazard the guess that there is a common thread that connects these things–the move away from bigotry, the move toward secularization, the move toward liberty–but it’s something to think about some other day. The fact remains: cultural values change over time. Whether they are improving or getting worse is up for argument.

It would seem obvious that a stagnant culture would self-destruct in very short order, but it’s equally obvious that there has never been such a thing as a stagnant culture. Today, our culture changes at a shocking speed and is incredibly robust–so robust that many people don’t consider the United States as having a culture. Compare that to the relatively defined culture of Venice, France, and Saudi Arabia. Here in the United States, we have a culture that includes hateful assholes like Steven Anderson (a pastor who openly says that he wishes more trans teens would kill themselves), wonderful nameless Christians who don’t give a shit if someone is trans, atheists like myself who take no part in religion, people who openly believe themselves to be witches, people who openly worship the devil, Muslims, Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, and even scientologists. The only description that will fit these many disparate beliefs and worldviews is that the United States’ culture as a whole values religious freedom.

In another sense, we have goth culture, emo culture, jock culture, snob culture, cheerleader culture, Christian culture, white culture, black culture, Japanese culture, Mexican culture, and so many others that it’s immaterial whether every single individual actively enjoys and embraces all of these different sub-cultures, because, again, on the whole the result is that the Unites States’ culture values cultural differences. This literally allows us to pick and choose what we like from each culture and incorporate it into our lives for personal fulfillment.

I think Michael and I both will agree that “cultural appropriation” is a positive thing, and that SJWs can fuck off.

This allows even the most ardent transphobic Christian to watch and enjoy Japanese anime, to eat burritos, and to have a goth son who listens to Megadeth (though the parent, because of the cultural conflict, won’t be happy about it, hopefully the parent realizes the futility and counterproductive nature of denying the teenager the ability to embrace their own preferences). The United States is basically a gigantic buffet of different cultural elements, and we are actively encouraged (nevermind the lunatic progressives) to take only the dishes that we like, while ignoring the dishes that we don’t like.

My wording in my willingness to accept a debate with Michael isn’t accidental. I have no desire to argue with him about the utility and value of “traditional values.” He has gone to the buffet and taken different dishes–that’s fine. I have absolutely no standing to tell him that the dishes he took are inferior, bigoted, hateful, or narrow-minded. They’re the dishes he likes, and that’s okay. My argument is that it’s not a problem that the Accepting Trans People Dish has been placed on the buffet. I’m not arguing that the “traditional” dishes should be removed from the buffet, and, evidently, Michael isn’t arguing that contemporary dishes should be removed from the buffet (so, really, there’s not much of a debate there).

However, it remains true that anyone who subscribes to traditional values will consider those traditional dishes to be superior to the contemporary ones–and that, in my estimation, is wrong. Not only is it a subjective assessment of different values that is based on the values that go into the assessment (it gets really hard to explain), but the closest we have to “objective” criteria (economic growth, prosperity, and peace) suggests that it’s a positive thing when culture shifts from “whatever it is” along the unnamed thread toward liberty, secularization, and acceptance. This becomes subjective because I value economic growth, prosperity, and peace, and I have absolutely no objective reason that I can point to in order to suggest that economic growth, prosperity, and peace are good things (see Darkside Philosophy for an idea of how deep that rabbit hole gets).

So the questions are ultimately:

  • Does the presence of contemporary values on the Cultural Buffet in any way decrease the value of traditional values?

The answer is “No,” but, to be fair, I don’t think Michael would make that argument in the first place. This is sort of counterintuitive. If we laid out a buffet of ten different currencies, all of them equal to 100 of whatever currency they are (one hundred dollars, one hundred pounds, one hundred euros, etc.), it would seem to cheapen the value of the 100USD if the USD customarily were the only option. However, given that monopolies are inherently wasteful and inefficient (whether cultural, currency, or business monopolies), the presence of competition would more likely increase the value of the USD.

  • Is the presence of contemporary values on the Cultural Buffet a negative detriment to the traditional values?

This is very similar to the first question. If a child of one of the traditional diners is intrigued by the look of some contemporary values dish, it could be argued that the mere presence of the dish piqued the child’s imagination, which wouldn’t have happened otherwise. But here we have to point out: if the traditional dish is superior, then there is no harm in allowing the child to taste the contemporary dish. If we place a bowl of chocolate ice cream, and a bowl of sprinkle-covered shit on the buffet, it wouldn’t really be a problem, no matter how much one didn’t want one’s child to eat sprinkle-covered shit. If the chocolate ice cream is better, then even if the child does get the chance to taste the shit, the child will surely go running back to the ice cream at the first opportunity. This is the cowardice and weakness that underlies cultural protectionism: if their values were truly superior–as they profess to believe–it would be unnecessary to prevent others from being exposed to other values. I have no issue with my clients trying out other I.T. companies, because I know they’ll come running back to me in very short order.

  • Are traditional dishes likely to survive the diversity of the buffet in any noteworthy sense?

The answer here is “no,” just as the traditional dish of “divine right of kings” hasn’t survived the buffet. Sure, a few people every once in a while can be found eating that dish, but the total impact that dish has on the overall culture is negligible. Greek Mythology is another traditional dish that hasn’t been treated well by the buffet. Even though we can find people today who worship Zeus, Greek Mythology is widely considered mythology rather than a religion, and the total impact that Zeus worshipers have on wider society is negligible. As long as no one comes along and removes the dish from the buffet, it’s up to the people who like and prefer that dish to convince other people that it’s a dish worth having.

If one can’t do that, then I guess the dish isn’t that good after all. I don’t have to convince people to try my chicken enchiladas, because they’re freaking delicious, and smelling them while hearing everyone raving about them (no joke, my chicken enchiladas are amazing, but it’s not my recipe) will entice them to try them. I don’t have to convince people to not eat the beef burrito; I just have to convince them to give my own dish a shot. And if my dish is really as good as I say it is, after that it will speak for itself.

Alt-Right-Del

I’m going to do something that I don’t do often.

Rik Storey is an idiot who has no idea what he’s talking about, cherry-picks to support his chosen ideology, ignores evidence that conflicts with his internal ideas, and spreads this madness for other people to absorb. The only reason I know about this alt-right goon is that he’s a member of a Voluntaryist/Anarchist/Libertarian group I’m in on Facebook, and no one has seen fit to kick him from the group yet for constantly talking about his alt-right positions and why they’re not only part of libertarianism–his latest post is about “the alt-right faction of the Libertarian Party”–but are critical to libertarianism–such as his post “Why Libertarians Need Protectionism.”

This is the idiot who said that multiculturalism is bad.

I’m not going to go into a line-by-line analysis of his writing and where his reasoning breaks down. I’m going to instead talk in broad strokes, because I don’t have the patience right now to read his trite dribble again. I have read his stuff, and I have countered his stuff; he has ignored the counters and continued peddling his inanities anyway.

Culture War?

Anyone who thinks that the United States is at risk of losing its culture needs to turn their sights inward. America runs the world, not just politically but also culturally. Our movies are cherished, our music is highly prized, and our video games are widely praised. Video games are the only cultural area where we don’t run the full sweep, but Bethesda, Bioware, and Blizzard–interestingly, all of whom begin with a “B,” although I think Bethesda is Canadian?–clearly show that the U.S. is a major player in the video game industry, even if it is dominated by Japan. Mass Effect: Andromeda released today, and has surely already sold millions of copies. World of Warcraft, anyone? Fucking Skyrim?

The wonderful thing about mainstream culture is that it’s always representative of the wider cultural values at home. This is obvious when you think about it. No movie in the 1950s would have depicted a gay marriage scene, because gay marriage was almost universally reviled, and the movie makers wanted to make money. Putting in a gay marriage scene would have resulted in widespread protest of the movie, and they wouldn’t have made any money. Culture, of course, is a multi-faceted thing, but the point still stands: America is projecting its culture out into the rest of the world, influencing the rest of the world.

Not the other way around.

We’re not sitting at home watching Bollywood movies and being increasingly influenced by Indian cultural values. We’re not watching Chinese sitcoms and slowly being pushed away from individualist thinking and toward collectivist/clan-based thinking that is more dominant in Asian cultures. American values are a teenage girl telling her middle aged father, “No, father! I will not marry that man, because I do not love him! I don’t care if he can save the family fortune!” An Indian or Chinese film would have the teenage girl saying, “Yes, father. I will do what is best for our family.” Remember, I said we’re speaking in broad strokes.

That kind of stuff influences people. We’re constantly being influenced by movies, television, music, video games, and literature. Take “The Purge,” for example, a movie that I boycotted on the basis of promoting facetious reasoning and the assumption that legality is what keeps people from killing one another. Show people movies like that long enough, and they will come away from it having concluded that the government is what keeps people from killing one another in the streets.

It’s far beyond my abilities to explain how art becomes a catalyst of cultural change while also attempting to be safe enough to make money, but it’s an observable phenomenon. It probably has something to do with the Marilyn Mansons and GG Allins of the world who take refuge in audacity, and whose outlandish behavior breaks down many barriers, opening the door for more mainstream musicians to safely mimic some of that behavior without going quite as far. Marilyn Manson, A Perfect Circle, and Nine Inch Nails all sang about dead gods and anti-religious sentiments, and now no one bats an eye if a rock band says something anti-religion. The dam is broken.

I’ve no doubt that a culture expert can explain this, but it’s not really important to the point at hand. The point is simply that American culture is, by an enormous margin, the most influential culture in the world today. The question we must ask is: What values is American culture promoting? The recent re-release of Beauty and the Beast features a gay kiss, and a lot of conservatives are up in arms about it. This is hardly ultra-liberal, but it doesn’t have to be ultra-liberal, because that dam is already broken. There have already been gay couples in all manner of entertainment, and openly gay musicians and actors. Having a gay kiss is now a safe spot to be in.

Protectionism won’t protect your values if the culture of your society doesn’t reflect your values. You can go as far into isolationism as you would like, and it will not save your social values now. It’s too late. Your values are dying, and nothing can be done to stop that. We will never have an American society again where being gay is criminalized or hidden. We will never have an American society again where being transgender is a capital offense. We will never have an American society where women are depicted as anything less than the equals of men. The tide has changed, and whether your values go as far as these straw values or not, the fact remains that progress is a one-way street. Once people realized that those other people are other people, you can’t convince them that they’re not. Once you convince people that black people are just like white people, you can never again convince them that black people are inferior, because they already identify with them.

The values you wish to protect with your cultural protectionism are already on the chopping block, and isolationism and protectionism can’t save them. Your values are being eroded from the inside, from within America itself. It’s not outside cultural elements convincing us that gay people are ordinary people, too, and that there’s nothing wrong with being gay. That’s something we came up with all by ourselves. We weren’t propagandized by German movies into believing that transgender people are deserving of dignity. We weren’t corrupted by Chinese music into believing that black people are equal to white people. We weren’t twisted by British propaganda into believing that women are equal to men. Again and again and again, these ideas originated–at the very least, in their modern movements–in the United States. We are Ground Zero for these social changes, and we emanate them outward into the rest of the world via our entertainment, which is a reflection of our culture and the very social changes that the alt-right has a problem with.

Outside influences aren’t corrupting us. If anything, we’re corrupting outside influences.

You morons.

Why do you think China is relentlessly screening what movies, music, art, and literature enters their country? Even video games have to be screened, censored, and, often, changed before China will allow them in. Why? Because China is engaging in cultural protectionism. We are the influencers, you idiots. We are the ones influencing them. We’re not sitting around going, “Oh, I hope this famous Chinese movie has no subversive communist elements in it!” Dumbasses! We’re going, “Sweet! This movie is fucking awesome! U! S! A! U! S! A!”

This notion that outside elements are trying to influence us is so bizarre to me that I wonder if we’re even in the same reality. What cultural influences are impacting us? Paris has long stopped being the art capital of the world. We still have a lot of fondness for European culture–and, for some reason, we consider it more highly valued than our own, as though the Eiffel Tower is just inherently better than the Sears Tower–but it’s not influencing us. Europe is increasingly socialist, and that’s influencing some of our youngest who look to Europe as a utopia, but protectionism won’t change that, either, because it’s not Europe that people like Rik Storey have a problem with. In fact, they want to include Europe in their protectionism, and save it from all the “icky brown people” who are trying to change the culture that we’re literally influencing everyone else with.

These people are nuts. Fully detached from reality. Anyone with even a tenuous connection to reality can see plainly that it’s the United States that is influencing everyone else, not vice versa. It’s our movies that rock the world. It’s our musicians that rock the world. It’s our television shows that break new ground. It’s our Broadway. It’s our Fiddler on the Roof. It’s our Citizen Kane, our Gone With the Wind, our Titanic, our Avengers, our Avatar. What the hell are you worried about? You’re backward. We are influencing them.

High Trust

The basic idea of Rik Storey’s idiocy is that we need protectionism to keep out “bad elements” because a libertarian society is a high trust one, and so we need to be able to trust other members. I call this “idiocy” because it is.

As always, let’s begin by dissecting assumptions. What is “trust?” Trust is nothing more than a conditioned expectation to stimuli. There’s no such thing as trust; there’s just an expectation that this action will have this result, or that this other person will do that in response to this. It’s not about trust; it’s about expectation. We don’t trust the mailman to come everyday; trust is unnecessary to the process, because we know from experience and real-world examples that the mailman will come everyday. We’re not pulling from some emotional idea and faith in the mailman; we’re pulling from real experiences and real data to establish an expectation that is in-line with our experience.

Similarly, I don’t “trust” that my girlfriend would be pissed off if I cheated on her. I know she would; trust has nothing to do with it. I’m extrapolating from past experiences–not personal experiences, to be clear–and establishing an expectation based on those past experiences. Neither do I “trust” that she won’t cheat on me; I expect that she won’t, based on my past experiences with her. Trust never, ever enters into the picture. It’s just a misnomer, a colloquial way of saying “I have this expectation based on previous experiences.” A betrayal of trust isn’t a betrayal of trust; it’s when someone does something counter to our expectations that impacts us in a negative way.

That said, I dispute the idea that a libertarian society is a high trust one in the first place. I don’t have to trust that Bob won’t rob my house if there is no law against it, because I can shoot Bob for trespassing and violating my property. The state society involves exactly this same trust, too, because we know that laws don’t create moral behavior; they merely provide a framework by which immoral behavior is punished. No one is out there going, “Damn. I would steal, rape, and kill, if only there were no laws against it!”

So a stateless society–or a libertarian one–doesn’t involve more trust than any other sort of society. It doesn’t matter whether there is a law against it or not; trust isn’t the factor distinguishing the two. We don’t operate under the good faith trust that Bob won’t break into my home and steal my stuff in a libertarian society, just like we don’t operate under the good faith trust that Bob won’t break the law in a state society. We expect moral behavior based on our experiences with most people and we have ways of dealing with immoral behavior when it occurs. That doesn’t change in a libertarian society.

For That Matter, WHO Are You Trusting?

Rik Storey makes it pretty clear that he trusts straight, white people. He constantly talks about the greatness of western society, claiming credit for the work of the ancient Greeks, the ancient Romans, and the American ancestors. This is common for such people, of course: by taking credit for the great things that other people did, they give themselves an ego boost by identifying with those other people. “I’m great, because people who were just like me did great things! I can take credit for the fact that the Greeks invented democracy, because I’m white and they were white!”

I can’t speak for everyone, but if I was motivated to be racist, sexist, and sexual orientationist, then straight white men would be the last people I would trust. This is where Rik’s “logic” really breaks down: he wants to claim credit for all the great things that–there’s no reason to be coy–white people did, while he says nothing about the abominable acts that white people have done. If we’re talking about “white people” as a single collective unit, then, yes, they invented democracy, libertarianism, self-governance, and other cool things.

They also started two World Wars, executed the Holocaust, enjoyed American slavery for centuries, annihilated the Native Americans, have invaded countless sovereign nations, have tried more than any other race of people to conquer the world, and have dropped not one but two atomic weapons on civilian population centers. They systemically oppressed women, black people, Asians, Native Americans, LGBTQ people, non-Christians, and anyone else who wasn’t exactly like them. So yeah, if you’re a straight white man with Christian leanings, I could see why you’d be okay trusting other straight white men with Christian leanings. They’ve never turned their viciousness onto you, after all.

But if you’re literally anyone else, then the notion that you should simply trust straight, white Christian men is absurd in the highest degree. There is no other demographic less worthy of trust. Rik Storey’s inability to see this and realize it is exactly because he is part of that demographic and, in the classical sense of that demographic, is incapable of seeing the world through anyone else’s eyes. Straight, white Christian men must be trustworthy, he concludes, because he’s a straight, white Christian man and straight, white Christian men have never done anything to him.

He claims credit for the great things his ancestors have done and uses those great things as reasons why his demographic is inherently more trustworthy, as far as a libertarian society goes. His thinking is that white people invented libertarianism, and thus only white people can be trusted in a libertarian society. He conveniently ignores the fact that white people also invented the nuclear weapon, the cluster bomb, the UAV, and a host of other things that add up to being pretty good reasons why not to trust those people.

Of Course…

I don’t buy any of that. There is no “straight, white Christian male” group that acts and thinks in unison, that is more or less worthy of “trust” than anyone else, because there are only individuals with various characteristics. The above rant is not an attack against men, white people, straight people, or Christians except as an extension of Rik Storey’s own thinking–which I reject in the first place. If Rik Storey truly believes his own spiel, then his conclusion must be that straight, white Christian men whose culture is under threat from the outside world aren’t worthy of trust in the first place, and that it must be a good thing that those outside cultural influences are impacting his values.

Everything about his thinking is backward, skewed, and confused. In a libertarian society, we don’t have to trust our neighbors won’t violate the NAP, because we will have ways of dealing with it if they do. The existence of laws against violence don’t mitigate our trust or increase our trust; they are unrelated to the entire affair, as they are nothing more than the framework we use to punish people when they violate our morality. The morality remains in a libertarian society, and so does the tendency to punish people for violating it*. Just as you’d use law and the state to punish people for stealing from you in a state society, so would you use the NAP and some mechanism to punish people for stealing from you in a stateless society. Trust has nothing to do with it.

And if you really want to ride that demographic identity train, I don’t think it will arrive at a destination that people like Rik Storey will be comfortable with. Because if you’re going to take pride in all the great things that white people, men, straight people, and Christians have done, then you must also take responsibility for all the absolutely horrible things those same people have done: the Inquisition, the Holocaust, the Salem Witch Trials, McCarthyism, the Oklahoma City Bombing, the bombed abortion clinics, both World Wars, Nagasaki, Hiroshima… I’d be moderately interested in seeing Rik Storey’s tally where he has added up all the positive things his demographic has done and stacked them against all the negative things his demographic has done, and whether the math shows he is correct in trusting his demographic.

But he isn’t correct, and it’s stupid anyway, because we are individuals, not amalgams of characteristics and not extensions of people who lived and died thousands of years ago. I think it’s interesting that Storey wants to take credit for the Greeks inventing democracy, but I’d bet my shiny new A Perfect Circle tickets [Yes, that phrase again] that Rik Storey vehemently opposes the notion of reparations for black Americans.

So do I, as it happens, but I oppose it because individuals who didn’t do something shouldn’t have to pay for something that other individuals did to individuals who didn’t have it done to them. That is what a position of consistency looks like. “White people are worthy of trust because they invented libertarianism! But that they invented and remain the only people to have used nuclear weapons? No, that isn’t a factor” is not what a position of consistency looks like.

The alt-right is replete with this sort of cherry-picking, denial of history, and doublethink. I don’t criticize white people for the Holocaust; I criticize Hitler. I don’t praise white people for democracy; I praise the unidentified individuals who conceived it. I’m not worried about outside influences impacting American culture because I’m not a blind moron, and I can easily look out into the world and notice that it’s the other way around; American culture is heavily impacting the rest of the world. And even if I shared Storey’s timid, insecure values, I still wouldn’t be able to get on board with his “conclusions,” because I’m capable of noticing that America’s values are changing from within.

And if he’s arguing that those individuals who are fighting to change America’s values from within need to be excised or killed, then he obviously isn’t a libertarian of any sort, but that’s okay, because the alt-right isn’t a faction of libertarianism anyway. Libertarians means liberty for ALL, and let the consequences of freedom be whatever they will be. If liberty means that Rik Storey’s values are eroded and ultimately wiped from history, then so be it. Libertarianism means liberty for all, even non-white, non-straight, non-Christian, non-men. Liberty for one demographic obviously isn’t liberty; it’s tyranny.

So no. Alt-right ideas are fundamentally incompatible with the precepts of liberty. Libertarianism means other people are free to come in and influence your culture, because they aren’t using force, violence, and coercion. If your culture is so weak that it can’t survive that, then there you go–your culture is weak.

I tend to think that Storey must know this. Protectionism is all about insecurity, after all. If Microsoft is so scared of competition that they have to engage in protectionism, then it means they know their products suck and can’t stand up against competing products. If Storey is so scared of competition that he has to engage in protectionism, then it means he knows his culture sucks and can’t stand up against competing cultures.

Letting the weak be defeated by the strong through competition absent force, violence, and coercion? That is libertarianism.

So it’s not other cultures that are incompatible with libertarianism, Storey.

It’s you.

* Which I’m not on board with anyway, but that’s a more complex issue.

Footsoldiers of the State

Sorry if this makes you uncomfortable. However, the facts support everything I’ve said here.

Before we begin, I want to say:

Great. I’m glad that we got that out of the way.

There’s a lot of conversation in the United States right now about police brutality, and it’s been hijacked by a racially motivated crowd that distorts the facts and twists the reality–it is a tool of the state, whether intentionally or not, to keep us distracted from the real issue because we are focused instead on a byproduct of that problem.

The real issue is police brutality and unchallenged police authority.

The false issue is one of Black Lives Matter, turning the police brutality directed at all Americans into something that is racially motivated, when the numbers and facts simply don’t support that narrative. Here’s a map of the incredible 1,186 people who were killed by police last year, in 2015:

police1

It’s hard to look at that without my heart breaking.

And the false narrative put forward by upper and middle America is no more accurate, either, as they insist that the police are our friends and are here to protect us. They are not. There is no protection from the police–quis custodiet ipsos custodes? Who will guard the guards?

No one.

When you are out there in the world, there is nothing that protects you from a random police stop, and you will learn very quickly that you have no protection from the police. “Checks and balances” become non-existent. You cannot argue with them. You cannot dispute them. You cannot challenge them. There are countless ways that the procession could go, but many of them result in a bullet square between your eyes. Even when they are being recorded and you’re a law-abiding citizen with a right to carry, as recently happened in a grotesque video that I will not link, the police are unaccountable.

As Llewellyn Rockwell wrote in Fascism Versus Capitalism:

The government is totalitarian because it acknowledges no restraint on its powers. This is a very telling mark. It suggests that the US political system can be described as totalitarian. This is a shocking remark that most people would reject. But they can reject this characterization only so long as they happen not to be directly ensnared in the state’s web. If they become so, they will quickly discover that there are indeed no limits to what the state can do. This can happen boarding a flight, driving around your hometown, or having your business run afoul of some government agency. In the end, you must obey, or be caged like an animal or killed.

That’s something that we Americans should keep in mind. When that police officer pulls you over, if he has it in his mind to give you a hard time, then there is nothing that you can do about it. The officer can tell you to step out of the car while he does his work. Then a K-9 unit will show up. Why? Did you give the officer any reason to think that you were on drugs? No. But you were young, and you have tattoos, so they brought in backup–a K-9 unit. Then the dog sniffs around your vehicle and evidently signals to them that he smelled drugs. Did you see that happen? Do you know that’s what the dog really signaled? Who the hell knows? Only they know.

So they tell you to stand way back there, by their car, as they search your vehicle. You ask them to hand you your cell phone so that you can record the stuff that’s happening, and they say they’ll bring it to you in a moment. What do they really do? They find your phone and start reading your text messages. Are you gay? Do you have obviously gay stuff on your phone? Better hope the officer doesn’t dislike gay people. Or ensure that your phone is locked. At any rate, they go through your phone rather than bring it to you, as the other officer combs through your vehicle, desperately looking for drugs. They open up the fact and find an unlabeled pill bottle–they’re thrilled! They nod knowingly, and you can see it in their faces. We knew it, they are thinking. And we got ‘im! Great day for freedom!

Then they open up the pill bottle and learn that it’s just being used as a container for assorted screws. What the hell else is so perfectly suitable for holding random screws? Of course, you knew all along that there were screws in it, because it was your bottle, but that says nothing about whether it is actually illegal to carry around an unmarked pill bottle, regardless of what is in it. They spend a few more minutes searching, and then they ticket you–somewhere between one and three tickets. And you escape, thankful that it’s over, thankful that they didn’t plant drugs–because there would have been nothing that you could have done to stop it. Then your life would have been over.

This happened to me a number of years ago, when I was pulled over for having a tag that was expired by six days–totally reasonable that I simply hadn’t known the tag was expired. I ended up with a total of three tickets, was delayed to the client’s that I was going to by an hour, and humiliated in the middle of Memphis as a K-9 unit arrived, signaled for drugs, and the cops spent forty minutes tearing apart my vehicle. And never found anything because I’m not fucking on drugs. Yes, I have tattoos. I was also wearing loafers, khakis, and a button-up shirt with a tie when they pulled me over, and clearly on my way (from the tech stuff in the passenger seat) to work. And the Collierville police got an honest to fuck K-9 unit after me.

They also went through my phone. I saw them doing it, though they didn’t think I could see them. The second officer had the door opened at the perfect angle for me to watch the first officer through the sideview mirror as he picked up my phone and went through my text messages.

I would argue that my Constitutional rights were violated that day. After all, the dog was a police officer, in the eyes of the law. By what right did the dog search my vehicle? Oh, sure, he searched my vehicle with his nose, but that’s hardly even relevant. He searched me, one way or another, and the officers used it as an excuse to totally reject my Constitutional rights,  because this dog–my accuser who I could not face because he didn’t even speak English and they were the only conceivable translators–gave them probable cause. Firmly beneath the state’s heel, I could do nothing but watch and hope.

Not terribly long ago, I was pulled over by a curious state trooper. It’s a long story. I had a very unusual vehicle, though, and he wanted to be sure that my paperwork checked out. I had my insurance card in the console, so I opened it up to give it to him, as he had requested, and–

Holy shit! My loaded 38 Special is sitting right fucking there!

Now, this is in no way illegal. In the state of Mississippi, I can (and do) keep a loaded gun with me at almost all times.

I snapped the console shut and threw my hands into the air. When the officer looked at me quizically, I shouted over the roar of the Interstate traffic that I had a loaded 38 in the console, and that I had stupidly put it on top of my insurance card. He didn’t seem to even care. He just kind of shrugged and said “Go ahead and get it.” So I did.

But it occurred to me almost immediately that I would have probably been dead if my skin was black. That is true, and it’s hard to escape that reality.

However, this is not to say that police don’t have some foundation for that bias. It is similarly hard to escape the reality that it is true–most violent crimes in the United States are committed by black people, not white people. Does this justify their “Shoot first, ask questions later” mentality? Absolutely not. I’m not justifying or rationalizing anything. No one despises police and police brutality more than I do. However, it does make sense that they would be less likely to shoot a white person than they are to shoot a black person. Is this okay? Is this acceptable? These two questions are irrelevant. We live in a world of is, not a world of ought. How things ought to be is largely irrelevant to how things are actually are.

Of course, more than 50% of people killed by police in 2015 were white, while a little over 30% were black, according to http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2015/12/28/3735190/killed-by-police-2015/ . However, they also have doctored the numbers a bit, as they have clearly lumped people of “Unknown” race in with black Americans. The Washington Post actually reports the numbers more accurately, but I can’t find the link at the moment, as about 120 of the people killed by police in 2015 were of “Unknown” ethnicity. The only way Think Progress’s number of 30% makes sense, versus the 25% reported by the Washington Post, is if those of “Unknown” ethnicity were mixed in with the black numbers.

Not that it’s important–it’s not seriously important to quibble over 5%.

When black Americans make  up 13% of the American population, but 25-30% of the people killed by police, it’s hard to escape the idea that black people are disproportionately killed by police. Based off their population, excluding all other factors, we would think that 13% of people killed by police would be black. But notice my wording here: “…excluding all other factors.”

There are other factors. Let’s take a moment to remember NWA’s “Fuck Tha Police”, for example:

Beat a police out of shape
and when I’m finished, bring the yellow tape
To tape off the scene of the slaughter

Now, really? You can’t have a culture that venerates stuff like that, and then be surprised when the people you’re talking about are more inclined to regard you as a threat. Again, I’m not excusing or rationalizing anything, but we have to be rational and reasonable here. Certainly, not all black people are part of that culture anyway, and certainly not all black people endorse stuff like this:

C'mon. Seriously?

C’mon. Seriously?

Who sees this going well?

Do you see a future college graduate? Or even a future high school graduate? No, it’s not because he’s black that we don’t see a future college graduate. It’s not because he’s black that we don’t even see a high school graduate.

It’s because he’s like 8 years old and is pointing a gun at the camera while wearing a wife beater (Hey, I wear wife beaters, too… It’s my main male look, in fact, but they do give a bad image). We see a future criminal. Not because he’s black, but because he’s clearly walking that path. He clearly thinks he looks cool, and there’s no doubt that his father there in the orange jacket was the one who taught them that this is cool. This image is why police are more likely to shoot black men than white men. I’m sorry that makes people uncomfortable to hear, but this must be addressed before we can resolve the issue of racism in the country.

If you have a part of the culture that loves lyrics like:

Beat a police out of shape
and when I’m finished, bring the yellow tape
To tape off the scene of the slaughter

…while proceeding personally along the path like we see in the image, then we simply can’t be surprised when people are superficially and, perhaps, wrongfully assumed to be part of that culture when the determining characteristic of who takes part in that culture and who doesn’t appears to be skin color. This excuses and justifies nothing. If, however, we have police who “Shoot first and ask questions later,” then we simply cannot be surprised if they disproportionately shoot people who appear, by cultural weights, to likely belong to that part of the culture.

But this isn’t a war against black people by police.

It’s a war against people by police.

So far, in 2016, 505 people have been killed by police. 233 of them were white–nearly 50%–which is in-line with the numbers from 2015, when 50% of the people killed by police where white. It’s simply not a case of Black Lives Matter. It’s a case of Police Authority Is Out of Control. They are out of control because they were never supposed to have authority–our democracy was not designed to accommodate a police force with the authority to shoot first and ask questions later.

There once was a time when law enforcement consisted almost entirely of elected officials, and people who those elected officials personally selected as upstanding moral citizens. They were constables and sheriffs, a glorified neighborhood watch who went around and performed citizen arrests because we didn’t want to be bothered with it. There was a time when even these elected officials had no more authority to stop and harass someone than you or I do.

Now look.

We have city police departments that resembled militaries, SWAT teams with ridiculous degrees of weaponization and training.

Look at this. Look. At. This.

Look at this. Look. At. This.

This is the problem. This is a police vehicle. This armored behemoth is a police vehicle.

Is it any wonder that our police are totally out of control, that they shoot first and ask questions later, when we have stupidly allowed them access to killing machines like that? These are police! What the fuck are they going to be doing that requires a vehicle like that? The gap between police power and citizen power has become so great that few people even bat an eye at this monstrosity that the police have to “keep the peace” and to “serve and protect.” They now shoot first and ask questions later, and no one points out that… No. When you put on that badge, you are knowingly risking your life in an attempt to protect the innocent. That is what it means to be a police officer. If you would shoot first and ask questions later, thereby creating a real chance of directly harming someone who is innocent, then you have no right to wear that badge. That is what that badge means, that you are willing to give your life to protect the innocence. If you would shoot first and ask questions later, then you are clearly not willing to give your life to protect the innocent. In that case, you are demonstrably willing to kill the innocent to protect your life.

My heart truly breaks for all the people killed by police, and I want it to stop. But they aren’t being killed because of their skin color. Not really. They are being killed because our police no longer are willing to give their lives to protect the innocent; they are willing to kill the innocent to protect their lives. This is the inevitable result of having a branch of the state that is actually on the ground, the ones on the frontline in the war that humans have been fighting for thousands of years against the state. This was always going to happen, from the moment we turned over responsibility to a designated police force that was in the employ of the state. We are not their employers. The state is.

The police are the footsoldiers of the state. They are the ones on the frontlines, maintaining the state’s order at all costs. It should be no surprise that they are no longer willing to give their lives to protect the innocent; that is no longer their job. The job of the police is to protect the rule of the state. They do not ask questions. They do not question orders. They obey.

And they tell you to obey.

And if you don’t, then they put a bullet between your eyes.

Wake up, America. The problem is not racism. That is a problem, yes, but police killing a disproportionate amount of black men is a symptom of a larger problem, and is not an illness. Stop treating symptoms. Start treating the illness.

The illness is that the police even have the authority to do this. The underlying problem is that police even can shoot first and ask questions later. Get rid of their ability to do that, and you also completely nip in the bud the killing of a disproportionate amount of black men. Treat the symptom, and the disease will remain.

This is happening right before our eyes. And we are not questioning the underlying power of the police that allows them to do shit like this in the first place. That is the real problem; that is the real heart of the matter. We are fast allowing the state to use the police as its footsoldiers, not as a glorified neighborhood watch whose responsibility is keeping the peace and protecting the innocent.

American-Police-State-21

Look, if I happen to be in a situation where I believe the person is a violent criminal, no one expects me to Ask Questions First. I’m not expected to give the person the benefit of the doubt if they break into my home, are trespassing on my property, or any other number of crimes. But I’m not a police officer. I’m not wearing a badge that says I’m willing to give my life to protect the innocent. No one is going to blame me if I shoot first and ask questions later, and they shouldn’t. I never agreed with the public or with society that I would give intruders the benefit of the doubt and possibly risk my life protecting the innocent. My responsibility is to protect my life.

This is not true of police, though. Police are required by honor, by goodness, by virtue… to give the benefit of the doubt, to Ask First, and Shoot Later. That is what that badge entails. They are there to protect the innocent, and they know before becoming police officers that they may very well have to give their lives to protect the innocent.

So why does that change in practice?

Why do we just pretend like it’s not a blatant violation of their expressed values that they shoot first and ask questions later? Someone who is willing to give their life to protect the innocent will not shoot first and ask questions later, because there is too much potential there for the person shot to be innocent.

The police are not our friends. They are not on our side. They are not there to serve and protect us.

They serve the state.

Never forget that.

This in no way means they should be killed–for fuck’s sake, can we stop killing people for two goddamned days? Please? Can we please stop killing people? I’m so sick of death and murder–whether by police, by white men, by black men, by the few women who commit murder. I’m tired of it. Can we please just try to swear off violence? For a few days? Maybe?

Can we just stop being violent animals for a few days? Three days? Can I have three days where we, as thinking, rational, emotional, loving human beings, stop killing people? This includes war. This includes ISIS. DAESH. Whatever you want to call them.

We are stone age barbarians with nuclear weapons. What could possibly go wrong?

Demonized Gamers

I’ve written an article at Cubed3 about how gamers are often demonized by mainstream culture and the mainstream media for using slurs like “fag” and “nigger,” when the reality is that the application of such slurs leaves one to conclude that, far from being homophobic, misogynistic racists, gamers are the most tolerant and accepting people out there. I’ve had countless people react horribly to learning that I’m transgender, but none of them were gamers. I’m not saying that gaming itself is responsible for that openness, but I would venture the postulate that the kind of people who wouldn’t care about such things gravitate toward video games.

The article can be found here: http://www.cubed3.com/news/25746/1/critical-hit-demonised-gamers.html

…and I just want to clarify a few things.

First, I’m neither condoning nor excusing the use of slurs or the hostility that gamers often project. I’m explaining, not rationalizing or excusing. There is enormous difference; explaining why Charles Manson murdered people is not the same as excusing those murders.

Secondly, no, I don’t think gamers are universally wrong to use such words. They can be, though, and I have full appreciation for how damaging such words can be. But it’s not the WORDS that are damaging. It’s the mentality and sociological reality surrounding those words.

Third, I’ve already received the response that “nigger” is a special one, and no one gets to say it. That’s exactly what I rebuke. Fuck that mentality. No word is sacred. And if we’re talking oppression and victimization, I’m sorry, but homosexuals and transgenders have had it worse, since you want to compare such things. I’m sorry, but black Americans were enslaved and oppressed. Homosexuals and transgenders were killed outright–for thousands of years. Both are horrible, and it’s stupid to compare, so don’t try to put one slur above the others. When used as vernaculized hatred, they are all bad.